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Update: Darwin the Ikea Monkey Will Not Return To Owner Says Judge

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If it was a poorly dressed monkey I would have thought it was Don Cherry.


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I see a new IKEA ad campaign.

Show Darwin in the IKEA parking lot, fade to the self-serve area as he picks up the flat packs, scene switch to his home where wielding the ubiquitous hex end angle wrench he puts together the furniture.

Fade to a black screen and the words appear....



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That's a pretty pimpn' coat he's got on but kind of flamboyant if you ask me. Bi-curious George?


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And the story about Darwin the Ikea Monkey continues to evolve.

The owner of a monkey found wandering in an Ikea parking lot is set to learn Friday whether she will get to take him home, albeit temporarily, but she didn’t leave an Ontario courthouse empty-handed Thursday.

Darwin the Japanese macaque has been residing at a primate sanctuary since he made international headlines with his romp among confused furniture shoppers in Toronto earlier this month.

After a court hearing Thursday where Yasmin Nakhuda began legal efforts seeking Darwin’s return, the sanctuary gave her back his tiny shearling coat that captured so much attention.

Nakhuda left the courthouse clutching the stylish little jacket and said little about the case.

“I just want him to be with us, where he belongs — not for Christmas, forever,” she said.


New twists were added Thursday to the unusual story as the lawyer for the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont., hinted at allegations of abuse and revealed the sanctuary owner has been receiving death threats.

Nakhuda, flanked by her 11-year-old and 16-year-old sons, appeared surprised to hear Kevin Toyne say there is “more to come” on the issue of animal cruelty.

“There are concerns ... with our clients and their volunteers that things have gone wrong with Darwin while he’s been in Ms. Nakhuda’s custody and it would not be appropriate to leave the two of them alone,” Toyne told the judge.

When asked about the allegation outside court, Nakhuda stopped walking away from reporters and held up the shearling coat.

“Does that look (like) abuse to you?” she asked.


After his Ikea escapade, Darwin was taken by Toronto animal services and then sent to the sanctuary.

Nakhuda’s lawyer, Ted Charney, argued the animal control officer had no power to seize Darwin, only to issue Nakhuda a ticket, which he did.

Since it’s illegal to own a monkey in Toronto, Nakhuda and her family want to move with Darwin to Kawartha Lakes, where it isn’t specifically prohibited.

However, Charney told the judge a Kawartha Lakes bylaw official has been reported as saying the municipality would try to enact such a bylaw as soon as possible.

Charney argued Nakhuda needs Darwin returned now so the family can set up residence in Kawartha Lakes and be grandfathered under any new bylaw.

He said his client should at least get to take Darwin home on an interim basis until the case is fully argued.


The sanctuary asked the judge to adjourn the case so it has more time to prepare, since Nakhuda filed her materials just last Friday.

Toyne said the court shouldn’t make any decisions about returning Darwin to Nakhuda until it has all the information.

Toyne said he was in contact with an American named Lisa Whiteaker who runs a website called and refers to herself as the “Monkey Whisperer.” She had been in regular email contact with Nakhuda, and Toyne said he is hoping to get access to those emails.

“I am told that those documents will be very useful to our clients to undercut a number of key assertions (by Nakhuda),” Toyne said. He cast doubt on Nakhuda’s assertion that Darwin was a gift, saying she provided the court with no information about the “mysterious Montreal breeder,” not even a name.


The sanctuary offered Nakhuda a 30-minute visit on Tuesday, but with strict conditions, including a police search, chaperoning by sanctuary officials and police, and a ban on physical contact with Darwin.

With such restrictions in place, the visit would not allow Nakhuda and Darwin to bond, her lawyer said, adding it would not be right if the monkey is ultimately returned and by then the bond is lost.

“If property is going to be returned to the plaintiffs the property should be in the same condition,” Charney said.

Nakhuda said outside court she is not interested in the proposed closely supervised visit.

“If I had a one-day visitation I’m not taking it because it would be very harmful for Darwin,” Nakhuda said. “If he sees me he’s going to want to hold on to me.”


Charney told the judge Nakhuda and one of her two sons have been suffering from anxiety since Darwin was taken and that the sanctuary has denied her access to the monkey to purposely try to sever the bond between them.

“The longer she goes without seeing Darwin, the more likely Darwin will lose his bond with the family,” Charney said. “That’s why she’s been denied access ... By the time the trial happens, the bond is going to be broken.”


The sanctuary says Darwin is doing well in his new environment and it’s in his best interest for him to remain there.

“This environment is closer to Darwin’s natural habitat and will help Darwin develop as a primate,” sanctuary founder and owner Sherri Delaney wrote in an affidavit.

“Based on what I have learned in the media and from my review of her affidavit, I do not believe that Nakhuda has been complying with Ontario’s standards of care for primates.”


The sanctuary is not the “monkey police,” Charney argued. If there is actual abuse suspected the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has the power to lay charges. Charney suggested that the $15,000 in donations the sanctuary has raised already in Darwin’s name is one of the factors why they want to keep him.

Delaney, who is also a Durham Regional Police officer, wrote that she has received “numerous threats” on her life and has hired a private security company to guard the sanctuary.

The judge reserved his decision for one day on whether the monkey should be returned to Nakhuda at least temporarily.


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The Ikea monkey custody battle heads back to court in late May 2013 and is scheduled for a four day trial.

OSHAWA, Ont. — Darwin the Ikea monkey, or rather, those fighting over his living arrangements, will get their day in court starting next month.

A trial has been scheduled over four days in May and June for the civil action launched by Darwin’s self-described “mom.”

Darwin has been at Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary since Toronto Animal Services scooped him up, after he was found wandering around a Toronto Ikea parking lot in December wearing a little shearling coat.

He has become the centre of a hotly contested battle between the sanctuary and Yasmin Nakhuda, who alleges animal services officers tricked her into surrendering her monkey.

Nakhuda has already gone before the court twice in ultimately unsuccessful bids to try to get Darwin back on an interim basis, arguing that separating them until the trial would destroy their bond.

The full trial has now been scheduled to be heard here May 30 and 31 as well as June 10 and 11.


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Yasmin Nakhuda had a pet monkey. On December 9, 2012, she went shopping and took the monkey along.”

So begins Justice Mary Vallee’s 13-page decision dismissing Nakhuda’s lawsuit against a Sunderland primate sanctuary to regain ownership of her beloved “son” Darwin, more famously known as the Ikea Monkey.

He has been residing at Story Book Farm since December, after making international headlines when he was seen roaming through an Ikea parking lot in a shearling coat.

The two sentences could just as easily serve as the opening to a child’s tale about a woman named Yasmin who really wanted a Japanese snow macaque, approached a mysterious exotic animal seller named Ayaz (no last name), and then put the animal in diapers and sometimes a little coat and took him everywhere.

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It would be a quirky novel, except, as the whole world knows, the story of Darwin the Ikea Monkey is not at all fictional. Friday’s verdict closed another chapter in the tale, although it’s unclear if the saga is completely over.

In ruling on Nakhuda’s suit against Story Book Farm and its president, Sherri Delaney, Vallee accepted the sanctuary’s argument that the monkey is a wild animal, “by virtue of his behaviour and qualities” and wrote that “Ms Nakhuda lost ownership of the monkey when she lost possession.”

In other words, when Darwin escaped Nakhuda’s car on that chilly Dec. 9 day in his shearling coat and made his way into Twitter infamy, and later into the hands of Toronto Animal Services, he was no longer a possession of the 43-year-old Toronto real estate lawyer.

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  • Ikea monkey's fate in judge's hands

The Nakhuda side argued that the monkey was a domesticated pet and therefore belonged to the family.

The office of Nakhuda’s lawyer, Ted Charney, said neither Nakhuda nor Charney would be commenting on the verdict, leaving it unclear whether she plans to appeal.

The decision came as a relief to staff at Story Book Farm, who have been subjected to nasty messages and threats from Nakhuda supporters, said lawyer Kevin Toyne.

“We hope people will carefully review the judge’s decision before posting negative things about a facility they have not visited and don’t know a whole lot about,” he said.

The sanctuary wrote a simple “Thank you all for your support” on its Facebook and Twitter pages.

The trial kicked off in late May. Nakhuda, who shed tears in the courtroom, had tried on two previous occasions to get interim custody of Darwin.

Vallee disagreed with Nakhuda’s claims that she was “tricked” into signing a surrender form by an animal control officer who threatened her with criminal charges. The officer in question testified that he only told her it was illegal to own a monkey in Toronto.

The judge ruled that animal services was entitled to detain the monkey, writing that concerns about “illegally imported monkey disease” were good reasons to do so.

She also found that Nakhuda lied about how she came into possession of Darwin. Nakhuda initially said he was a gift, but it later came to light that she had purchased him for $5,000 (a steal, considering his original price was $10,000).

The ruling indicates Nakhuda specifically asked for a baby Japanese snow macaque after “she had seen a video of one waiting on tables in a restaurant and thought it was interesting.” But he proved to be a royal pain.

He hated wearing diapers, “would scream inconsolably,” and would bite often, with Nakhuda’s husband “receiv(ing) the worst of it.”

Nakhuda did try to return the rambunctious creature to Ayaz, the exotic animal seller, who she understood also sold white tigers, bald eagles, monkeys and kangaroos, according to the judgment.

But the transfer didn’t work out as planned, because Darwin clung to her. Ayaz told Nakhuda the monkey had obviously bonded with her.

Vallee made no decision on legal costs, but said she would accept submissions from both sides within 30 days if an agreement could not be reached


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